Plato: Art is the phantom of truth.

We are each and every one of us the product of random forces, but we want to believe in patterns and purpose. Purposeless-patternlessness is not for us.

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Writing is the was and was not scumbled into the might have been or could have been or even should have been, and you’ll want to believe that somehow writing is truer than true because of “immortal” words frozen temporarily in time.

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“Though Pyotr Alexandrovitch may have exaggerated, still there must have been some semblance of truth in his story.” –Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamozov

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In fiction, A leads to B, B leads to C, C leads to D, etc. In life, things always appear connected after the fact. Through hindsight, these “connections” become a narrative of fate or destiny, causal not correlative, or perhaps even coincidence or synchronicity, but never, never random collisions of matter, energy, time. Never.

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I once worked with a guy who claimed to have written The Cars’ 1978 hit “My Best Friend’s Girl,” before the other members stole the song and kicked him out of the band, screwing him out of money and fame and condemning him to a life of retail drudgery. Like all stories, this one no doubt has some basis in truth. Like all memories, this one no doubt has some basis in what happened. But was it true? That’s how I remember it, but that doesn’t mean the details are correct, or that it even happened that way, or that he was telling us the truth. For all I know, it might have been someone else who worked with the guy, or it might have been another band and another hit before the memory became — through that telephone game of living and remembering — mine. Maybe I read it in a story once. I might even be making it all up, perhaps without even being aware that I’m making it all up, or then again, perhaps not, crafting it into the might have been or could have been or should have been, truer than true. Fact is, I don’t even remember the guy’s name.

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Nabokov on memory in Speak, Memory: “blank spots, blurry areas, domains of dimness.”

We have five senses with which to perceive the world, ¾ visual sense, but despite evidence to the contrary, we tell ourselves that there must be something more, something we’re missing, something we can’t see, touch, taste, hear or feel — even if we have to make it up. Then, somehow, through following the path of the enigma, the made up becomes more real to us than the real, more authentic, truer than true. There is something and there is nothing. Define nothing, right?

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To think, as Heidegger did, that nothing is part of the world of things, revealed to us through the feeling of dread, not the nothing itself (negation), no, but a kind of simultaneous pushing and pulling between the two that reveals the meaningfulness of things…Sorry, but it is impossible to experience nothing. If you are alive, and if you’re reading this then you are, it is impossible to have knowledge of not being alive. NOTHING is imaginary, NOTHING is still something here.

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Philosophy is the invention of concepts, not the discovery of knowledge or the revelation of truth.

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Like the philosopher, the artist doesn’t see what is, but what isn’t, and tries to make it is.

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« C’est ce qui dupe les gens: un homme, c’est toujours un contour d’histoires, il vit entouré de ses histoires, et des histories d’autrui, il voit tout ce qui lui arrive à travers elles; et il cherche à vivre savie comme sil la racontait. Mais il faut choisir: vivre ou raconter. » -Jean Paul Sartre, L’nausée

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Rimbaud, the former teen poet of rebellion, carried seventeen pounds of gold across Africa in a money belt and not one single book of poetry. Other teen poets of rebellion will eventually do the same, in one form or another. But the teen poetry of rebellion will remain truer than true, even for those now-adults pursuing the gold trade.

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English departments tend to attract lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts who idealize books written by lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts idealizing lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts who conclude that life is misery and suffering for everyone and they (the lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts) stay in the self-reinforcing bubble of academia writing fiction (and worse) criticism, teaching students that life is misery and suffering and what matters most are books written by lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts idealizing lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts who conclude that life is misery and suffering for everyone.

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“Sunday, 19 July, slept, awoke, slept, awoke, miserable life.” -Kafka, Diaries

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How to succeed in the literary world: be neurotic, be unsure of yourself (question the existence of self) be depressed, be unhappy, be estranged (from self and others), be self-deprecating, be miserable, be anti-social, be alone (but complain about being alone), be too social (and complain about not having enough time alone), be an addict (choose one or more addictions from the officially sanctioned list of addictions), be in pain, be disdainful, be unsuccessful (in love, life, literature), be suicidal, be ironic, be a liar (but insist you’re telling a higher truth by making things up), use your friends’, your enemies’ and your own experiences (but insist your making it all up), be a victim of (fill in the blank), in other words, be someone that no human being would ever want to be around in real life and the commercial and critical lapdogs of the literary world will sing your praises in newsprint.

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DFW thought fiction an escape from the self, the terrible horrible self. The self he was saddled with — alcoholic, addict, stalker, suicider — AA taught him the self was where the Disease nested like a spider spinning a web of addiction, misery and unhappiness. No wonder he wanted to escape the self. He finally succeeded, but not through fiction.

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Where is the literature of happiness? Happy people choose living, not writing about living.

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T. Stearns Eliot (as he was known at the time) was a lonely depressed social misfit who was terrified of women and afraid of asking for sex (that overwhelming question). He wrote a poem called “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (note matching five syllable name) about a lonely depressed social misfit who was terrified of women and afraid of asking for sex (do I dare?). We’re supposed to believe that this represents the alienation of modern man, or some other such banal critical trope, according to the lonely depressed social misfits and outcasts of English departments. T. S. Eliot (as he was later known) later wrote an essay claiming all poetry was impersonal.

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“Perhaps it is time I paid a little attention to myself, for a change. I shall be reduced to it sooner or later.” –Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

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You cannot understand life by trying to stop it, freeze it. It is a process that can only be experienced. Trying to stop it, dissect it, freeze it, fictionalizes life into not-life because it assumes the process can be stopped, dissected, frozen and yet the essential qualities of the process will remain.

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“A process cannot be understood by stopping it.” -Frank Herbert, Dune

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The desire to know amongst the despair of not knowing, knowing that we can’t know what we don’t know even as we try to know what we can’t know — we know we don’t know, we know.

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In the end, only unending end. Or perhaps not. In truth, only nobody can write about that.

Writing. Literature. Philosophy. Culture. Ph.D. U of Arizona.

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